El Voto Hispano: The Documentary

Image courtesy of votohispanofilm.com.

Image courtesy of votohispanofilm.com.

In 2050, one in three Americans will be of Latino origin. In 2014, Hispanics will not only influence, they will in some cases decide the outcome of key congressional races that will determine the balance of power in Congress. “El Voto Hispano” is a documentary about the electoral power of the Hispanic vote and what it means for America.

Directed and co-produced by Gianpaolo Pietri, the story follows one voter, one correspondent, and interviews a wide range of prominent politicians during the 2014 Midterm election cycle. The documentary will showcase the Hispanic voting population in the U.S., defining for themselves who they are, what they believe in, what it means to be Hispanic in this new American paradigm, and what role do they play in the future of their country.

Gianpaolo and writer/co-producer Alessandro Pietri have taken to Kickstarter to ask the Latino community for help in funding the project in order to protect against the commercialization of the film and ensure a balanced and objective approach to their investigation.

El Voto Hispano” is a non-partisan effort to create awareness among Americans of the changing landscape in their country’s demographics, as well as, and more importantly, create awareness among Hispanic voters of the importance to exercise their right to participate in the electoral process with their vote.

Over the next seven months, the award-winning film crew of “El Voto Hispano” will study and document how influential Hispanics are in electing winners in key races of the upcoming congressional Midterms in November of 2014, and how their choices shape the agenda for the upcoming presidential election in 2016.

With your support, Gianpaolo, Alessandro, and their production team will bring a better, more comprehensive understanding to the American people about how their country is evolving, expanding, and becoming an ever more diverse and inclusive union of people with varying cultures and ethnicities.

Become part of the process by contributing to “El Voto Hispano: The Documentary.” Donate what you can and share the Kickstarter link with everyone you know. If you cannot donate funds, please feel free to share this information via your social networks.


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Wall Ball World – Website/Organization Connects Handball Community

Photo courtesy of WallBallWorld.com

Photo courtesy of WallBallWorld.com

Playing handball is a rite of passage for many kids growing up in the city. The sport helps children, teens, and young adults stay fit and out of trouble. The most popular form of handball only requires a ball and a wall and helps create a community of athletes with a passion for the game.

One person who shares this passion for American handball is Jasmine Ray. She has spent three years developing a website and organization called Wall Ball World. Wall Ball World’s mission is, “To Establish the Sport of Wall Ball as a Vehicle for Inspiring and Empowering Peoples’ Lives.” Last December, CNN en Español profiled Jasmine and Wall Ball World.

Wall Ball World aims to be the hub of all wallball/handball sites across the globe. It also hopes to make a huge difference in the lives of many young people in urban areas.

“There are a lot of handball associations out there,” Jasmine Ray said. “But we cater more to a younger, urban/minority population.”

Jasmine also noted the entrance fees to tournaments sponsored by other organizations make the game out of reach for a lot of people. She wants to keep Wall Ball World tournament fees affordable at about half of what other associations charge. Wall Ball World has also awarded more prize money than other organizations thanks to Jasmine’s fierce pursuit of sponsors.

Jasmine, who was born in Brooklyn, has dedicated Wall Ball World to the memory of her brother Jonathan Robert Ray. The two grew up playing handball together and against local kids.

“When he passed away,” Jasmine recalled “the best way to honor his memory was with a handball tournament.”

Wall Ball World is a 501(c)3 organization that works to bring city-wide intramural handball tournaments to CUNY schools and has worked with Redbull to promote the sport.

Handball helps keep young people healthy by keeping them away from the coach and video games. Jasmine promotes the sport as a way to get people moving.

“I’m going to motivate my people to exercise and I’m going to do it with handball,” Jasmine said.

Wall Ball World is always looking for corporate sponsors who want to help create positive changes in communities of color and accepts donations from private citizens who share Jasmine’s dream.

“I see Wall Ball World becoming international and providing my community an opportunity to see the world through playing their favorite sport,” said Jasmine.

You can help Jasmine make a difference in the community she serves by making a donation and sharing this post with anyone you know who would love to support Wall Ball World.

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Free Oscar López Rivera: One of The Longest Held Political Prisoners in the World

oscar_lopez_rivera

Image courtesy of hispanicallyspeakingnews.com

A unity march to free Oscar López Rivera is scheduled for this Saturday, November 23 in New York City. López Rivera is a Puerto Rican independence fighter that has been jailed for 32 years. He is said to be “among the longest held political prisoners in the history of Puerto Rico and in the world.”

In 1981, López Rivera was charged with “seditious conspiracy” in connection with his involvement in the Armed Forces of National Liberation (or FALN), a Puerto Rican separatist group that claimed responsibility for a series of bombings. He was sentenced to 55 years in prison.

According to former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the sentences received by López Rivera and the other Nationalists were judged to be “out of proportion to the nationalists’ offenses.”

López Rivera’s imprisonment has been protested this year in Puerto Rico and U.S. Congressman Luis Gutierrez recently told WNPR News that it’s time to release López Rivera.

This Saturday’s march begins at 11AM  at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center in the Lower East Side and will end at the Continental Army Plaza in Brooklyn. The march is being organized by the Community Coalition for the Freedom of Oscar López Rivera. For more information email virtualboricua(at) gmail.com.

Feel free to share this blog post widely and “Like” the Free Oscar López Rivera Now Facebook Page.

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Startups of Puerto Rico Showcase – Tuesday, October 15th in New York City

Image courtesy of www.startupsofpuertorico.com

Image courtesy of www.startupsofpuertorico.com

Are you interested in knowing more about the startup community in Puerto Rico? If so, you can’t miss the Puerto Rico Startup Showcase scheduled for Tuesday, October 15, 2013 in New York City. Representatives of six early-stage startups from Puerto Rico will pitch investors, advisors and entrepreneurs from the New York community at the event hosted by Microsoft.

The evening session begins at 6pm and runs through 9:30pm with a social event to follow hosted by Fans & Friends of Startups of Puerto Rico.

Startups of Puerto Rico is a entrepreneurial factory generating founders of technology-based firms based in Puerto Rico. Through its community activities, Startups of Puerto Rico is defining an economic development paradigm based on leveraging the unique passion and genius of the Puerto Rican people.

In addition to Microsoft, other sponsors of the October 15th event include Latingenious, the Founder Institute, the Latino Startup Alliance, Piloto 151, Paranda, and Clearshore.

 

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Thompson on Tuesday: My Take On The Crazy NYC 2013 Race For Mayor

As a Native New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent and a life-long Democrat, I was undecided about my choice for mayor in the Democratic primary race until yesterday.  I considered several of the Democratic nominees for mayor, but had to narrow it down to my top three: Christine Quinn, Bill De Blasio, and Bill Thompson. (In full disclosure,  I once donated $25 to Quinn’s campaign.)

As of the posting of this entry, the polls show De Blasio suddenly leading the Democratic pack and there’s some chatter that he might win the Democratic nomination without the expected run-off. We’ll see how it all plays out in five days.

I voted for Bill Thompson in 2009 against Michael Bloomberg. Since I was torn between three candidates this year, I decided to go again with Thompson on Tuesday. He barely lost to the billionaire Bloomberg in 2009 and I believe Thompson deserves another shot at being the mayor of New York City.

I considered supporting Christine Quinn as the first female and the first lesbian mayor, but I just could not get passed the fact that in 2008 she was on team Bloomberg and helped him extend term limits allowing him three terms as mayor. I also seriously considered De Blasio because I think he is the most progressive Democrat in the race and I like his multicultural family. If De Blasio wins the race outright I won’t be extremely disappointed.

However, I’ll be voting for Thompson on Tuesday and wish him all the best.

The general election might be an entirely different story because as a Latino I’ll definitely consider Adolfo Carrion, the former Bronx Borough President, who is running for mayor as an Independent. I’ve always voted on the Democratic line but it might be tough not voting for a fellow Puerto Rican in the general election in November. However, voting for Carrion in the general election might help whomever the Republican candidate might be. I’ll worry about that in November.

For now, go Thompson!

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Timbo Gonzalez Wins 2013 Reb Bull Slaps Handball Tournament

Timbo Gonzalez (foreground), Geo Vasquez (background.)

Timbo Gonzalez (foreground), Geo Vasquez (background.)

Timbo Gonzalez, one of the top ranked handball players in the world, won the 2013 Red Bull Slaps this past weekend at the legendary Coney Island handball courts on Surf Avenue and West 5th Street in New York City. Gonzalez, who won the first annual Red Bull Slaps three years ago, defeated defending champion Geo Vasquez in the big blue division.

Red Bull Slaps is a one-on-one street handball tournament that brings together New York City’s best handball players to compete for prizes and bragging rights in the small ball, big blue and pump ball divisions. The invite-only tournament brings 96 of handball’s top players from across the five boroughs to compete for cash prizes and ultimate NYC bragging rights.

Hosted by New York handball legend John “Rookie” Wright, the one-day event was held Saturday, June 8.  The tournament is a single elimination format with no player rankings. All players are put into a random draw to determine brackets and match-ups.

2013 Red Bull Slaps, Coney Island, NY. June 8, 2013.

2013 Red Bull Slaps, Coney Island, NY. June 8, 2013.

Gonzalez, a Puerto Rican who was born in the East New York section of Brooklyn and raised in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx, was excited at the opportunity to regain the Red Bull Slaps title. He started playing handball when he was 8 years old and began to take the sport seriously when he became 15. Gonzalez was attracted to the competitiveness of the sport, which his parents also played.

“My parents would bring me along on tournaments,” said Timbo. “It wasn’t just a game that was played in the park, it was bigger than that.”

Gonzalez, who is 21 years-old and presently lives in Bushwick, Brooklyn, learned about the Red Bull handball tournament through word-of-mouth. He’s passionate about the game and should continue to be a strong advocate for the sport for many years to come.


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LATINAS THINK BIG – The Official Launch of the ELLA Leadership Institute

The ELLA Leadership Institute launch event at Barnard College, May 16, 2013.

The ELLA Leadership Institute launch event at Barnard College, May 16, 2013.

The ELLA Leadership Institute officially launched last Thursday, May 16, at an empowering event at Barnard College at Columbia University. The LATINAS THINK BIG event was attended by over 200 participants and was live streamed by Google.

ELLA Leadership Institute is a professional development center that offers strategic and tailored training, consulting, and mentoring programs to women seeking career and leadership success.

“Latinas are the fastest growing female population in this country,” said ELLA Leadership Institute Founder and CEO Dr. Angélica Pérez-Litwin, “and yet only 0.3% of Fortune 500 corporate executives are Latinas. Similar rates of invisibility are found in academia, in the political arena, and the non-profit sector. This is not acceptable.”

Dr. Angélica Pérez-Litwin, who earned her PhD. in clinical psychology from Fordham University, has devoted more than 20 years of her professional career to the empowerment, well-being, and success of Latinas. As the publisher of NEW LATINA, Dr. Pérez-Litwin has greatly contributed to a new digital conversation focusing on issues that matter to today’s career-driven and progressive Latinas.

“The reality is a large majority of professional Latinas are pioneers,” Dr. Pérez-Litwin said during her talk at the LATINAS THINK BIG event. “Many of them are first generation Latinas in corporate America, in academia, in politics, in the careers of science, technology, and engineering. As they enter these professional-themed arenas they are navigating new spaces and don’t have the necessary support and guidance to achieve career success.”

Dr. Pérez-Litwin has already inspired countless Latinas, including members of Mujeres, the Latina-based student organization at Barnard College. Tatiana Vera, who works at the Student Life Center at Barnard and is the president of Mujeres, is honored to have Dr. Pérez-Litwin as her personal mentor.

“When she called herself my mentor I was through the roof,” said Vera. “Everything that she’s done I completely respect. I want to be a clinical psychologist as well. She’s the CEO of her own company and has her own practice. How more boss can you be for a woman?”

Corina Velazquez, a spoken word artist and dancer who is also a member of Mujeres, thinks of herself as an important piece in changing the world mainly because of Dr. Pérez-Litwin.

“The first time I met Dr. Angélica Pérez I was blown away,” Velazquez said. “She changed my view about working and my own aspirations as well. She really instilled this idea of the Latina not only working for her family but also working for herself. She instilled the idea that we can have it all and be economically sound as well.”

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